More on Food Waste
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A couple of weeks ago, in my Earth Day column, I wrote about food waste in America. I challenged you to keep track of how much food you and your family waste during one week.
If you didn’t do it, I’m repeating the challenge just so you can see how you compare with the national average. It’s estimated that each person wastes about 4.25 pounds of food each week.
Surprised by that number? Here are ten ideas and tips on how you can reduce the food waste in your home.
- Plan your meals before you go to the grocery store and buy only what you need. Purchase what will be eaten in a reasonable amount of time, especially perishables. A lot of food is thrown out because we have good intentions, but life gets busy and plans change….and before you know it that bag of spinach has gone bad or the milk spoils before you finish the carton.
- Check the temperatures of your refrigerator, it should be 41 degrees F or below. This will help to keep food fresher. Move the thermometer around in the refrigerator to see where it is the coldest, keep meats, fish and poultry in those areas.
- Organize your pantry, refrigerator and freezer using the FIFO method (that’s first in—first out). Often food gets pushed to the back and we forget about them.
- Freeze extras. Freeze leftovers and fruits and vegetables that you don’t think you’ll be able to eat while they are still good. Write the date on the package so you’ll use them within optimum time.
- Compost peelings, parings and unusable parts of fruits and vegetables. This can put your food scraps to work in your garden and put the nutrients back into the soil.
- Look at the sell by/use by/best by dates on food products. Try to purchase items with the longest shelf-life (the latest date) available. If a product is close to its sell by date, be sure to use it or freeze it quickly. Keep in mind, however, that just because a product is past its use by date does not mean it is unsafe to eat. If there is no mold, pests, off odors, off colors, or off textures, the product is safe to consume. This is especially true for dry, non-perishable items. Use the USDA’s FoodKeeper App for information on how to safely store different foods to maintain freshness and quality.
- Donate non-perishables to those in need. Food banks, food pantries and other community organizations are always looking for food donations to help the hungry. Instead of trashing it, share it with someone less fortunate.
- If available, purchase “ugly” or “misfit” fruits and vegetables. They are safe, nutritious and just as delicious as perfect items and sometimes offered at a discount. “Ugly” produce has physical imperfections but is not damaged or rotten. These “less than perfect” foods can easily be used in smoothies and soups. No one will know the difference.
- When eating out, ask for smaller portions to prevent plate waste (this will also help keep you from overeating). Take “doggie bags” home and eat within three days.
- Love your leftovers and give leftovers a makeover by reusing them in recipes. Add broccoli stems to a salad or blend overripe fruit into a low-fat smoothie. Keep leftover safety in mind.
Meghan Lassiter, the Family and Consumer Science Extension Agent here in Brunswick County recently presented a class on Reducing Food Waste for the Home as part of our Backyard Sustainability Series. If you’d like to learn more about food waste and what you can do to help reduce it, you can watch the recording on our YouTube channel.
Cheryle Syracuse wrote this article and more similar ones for the Family and Consumer Sciences Column in the Brunswick Beacon. Syracuse is an FCS team member and can be reached at N.C. Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center, 910-253-2610.